I Ate So Men Wouldn’t Pay Attention To MeS

I never realized why I gained the weight in the first place.

Weight was never a huge issue for me. When I was younger, I wore somewhere between a 12 and a 14—-not too big, not too small. I had the normal teenage concerns about my body (like wondering when my cleavage would come in), but nothing that made me feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

That is, until turned 14.

In high school, the boobs came in, followed by some hips and a nice little butt. However, I wasn't moved one way or another by this development since; at that age, I was more concerned with Video Music Box than being a 'video vixen' or chasing boys. But while I was busy being the child I was, the men in my neighborhood began getting busy with fantasies of the woman they felt my newfound body made me to be.

It started off subtle at first. Lingering stares and comments under the breath that you couldn't quite make out. I couldn't understand why these men were speaking to me that way. I may have had breasts and hips, but I still looked like a child. I tried to hide my budding womanlyness under oversized baggy clothes, but that didn't work. After I turned 16, it got unbearable/ I literally had men grab me, pull at me, hiss and whistle at me. I felt like everyone knew I had breasts and hips and thighs, everyone knew I was a woman. But I didn't want to be a woman. I hated it, I hated the men and I hated me.

I longed for a way to fade into the background. One day the answer came to me like an epiphany: food. See, those lustful men didn't have eyes for the chubbier ladies. They were pleasant with them, laughed and joked with them, but those girls were spared from the constant hissing and cat calls. They became my idols and I wanted to be them. So I ate. And ate and ate. I didn't even realize that food became my new baggy shirt, until one day on a break from college one of my childhood male friends stopped me in the street and said "What happened to you? You got big!"

Victory.

I was finally free. I was just another girl walking down the street and I loved it. For years this was bliss, until I started trying to date more and realized that I wasn't getting any attention from men. Confused? Me too. I spent so many years avoiding the male gaze, but now as the grown woman my younger self dreaded becoming, I wanted it. But now I had a new problem: all the men I want to pay attention to me don't want the big girl, they want the slim woman, and that's no longer me. Oh the irony.

I longed for a way to fade into the background. One day the answer came to me like an epiphany: food.

So what do you do when you think you're a good woman, who deserves a good man, but they think you're unworthy because of your weight…you eat your sorrows away. At least that's what I did.

It became such a vicious cycle, mainly because I never fully realized why I gained the weight in the first place. I didn't realize how deep my self hate went. I was a young girl who hated herself and now I was becoming a woman who hated herself. Finally, I sat in my apartment one day and really had a talk with myself about my weight. Not about portion control or carb counting, but about my emotional weight. I realized that the food was my way of physically stuffing down of all the emotions I felt over being sexualized and treated like a piece of meat by men as a child. I didn't know that the issue wasn't me and my womanlyness, but the men and their lack of respect for my body. I bore their cross as a burden and allowed it to weigh me down in more ways than one.

I now understand where my struggle with weight comes from and even though getting it off is a day-by-day process, I know that with every pound I work to lose, another piece of that emotional weight I've been carrying comes off as well. I'm learning to love myself despite my flaws. I've decided that I no longer want food to be my baggy shirt and I'm shedding that for good. My happiness is no longer about food or men; it's about me and finally learning to love my body for what it is. A Heaven-sent, honorable and worthy vessel of life and of love.The body of a woman.

—As told to Danielle Pointdujour

This post originally appeared on Ebony.com. Republished with permission.